Getting Buy-In for Cultural Change

Organizational change can be a very difficult endeavor for a leader, particularly when the change involves the culture of the organization the employees have accepted and become comfortable with. (Barret, 2002, p. 219) In order for change to occur successfully, it is necessary for all who are involved to be willing to make short-term sacrifices to make the change a reality, and unless there is clear communication and a high level of buy-in, employees are willing to hold onto a culture they may not even like instead of navigate the uncomfortable process of cultural change. (Kotter, 1995)

One technique that may be used to increase employee buy-in through of cultural change is by increased and specific training initiatives. Training can play an important role in cultural change by assisting employees in accepting new values. (Jreisat, 1997, p. 181) These training programs should focus on enhancing awareness and promoting cultural change by emphasizing the needs for cultural change from the competitive environment of the organization, customer feedback, internal financial trends, and needs of the employees expressed over time. (Schraeder, 2005, p. 497)

Another technique to increase employee buy-in of cultural change is by leadership setting the example expected of the employees. The behavior and actions of leaders can serve as triggers for employees to recognize the need for cultural change. (Gordon, 1991) Practices and behaviors of leaders and managers are the most potent carriers of cultural meaning. (Trice and Beyer, 1993, p. 365) Although it can be argued that employees don’t always follow the high standards leaders act within, they seldom exceed the standards a leader sets by example. In order for employees to understand and realize the benefits of cultural change to the point of buy-in, they need to see the change in action through the life of the leaders and managers they follow.


Deborah J. Barrett. (2002). Change communication: using strategic employee communication to facilitate major change. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 7(4), 219–231.

Gordon, G. G. (1991). Industry Determinants of Organizational Culture. Academy of Management Review, 16(2), 396–415.

Jreisat, J. E. (1999). Public Organization Management. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

Kotter, J. P., & Mundt, T. (1995). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review.

Mike Schraeder, Rachel S. Tears, & Mark H. Jordan. (2005). Organizational culture in public sector organizations. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 26(6), 492–502.

Trice, H. M. (1993). The cultures of work organizations. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.


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